Some skeptics object to the Shiite view on placing the Imams (a.s.) at a higher position than all creation excepting Holy Prophets (s.a.w.a.). They claim this is disbelief (kufr) and issue verdicts of Kufr (takfeer) against the Shias.
Such preposterous claims against Shias only shows poor understanding of the Holy Quran and Sunnah. These skeptics have derived conclusions to suit their own pre-conceived notions even though these beliefs are in direct conflict with Quran and Sunnah.
Regarding the superiority of the holy Imams (a.s.) – especially Ameerul Momineen (a.s.) – over all prophets (a.s.) – excepting the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – there is clear verse of the Quran:
فَمَنْ حَآجَّكَ فِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ فَقُلْ تَعَالَوْاْ نَدْعُ أَبْنَاءنَا وَأَبْنَاءكُمْ وَنِسَاءنَا وَنِسَاءكُمْ وَأَنفُسَنَا وأَنفُسَكُمْ ثُمَّ نَبْتَهِلْ فَنَجْعَل لَّعْنَةُ اللّهِ عَلَى الْكَاذِبِينَ
“But whoever disputes with you in this matter after what has come to you of knowledge, then say: Come let us call our sons and your sons and our women and your women and ourselves and yourselves, then let us be earnest in prayer, and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars.” (Surah Aal-e-Imran (3): 61)
There is a consensus among the commentators of the Holy Quran (mufassirreen) that the word “ourselves” in this verse refers to Ameerul Momineen (a.s.).
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal narrates in his Musnad: When this verse was revealed upon the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), he invited Imam Ali (a.s.), Lady Fatima (s.a.), Imam Hasan (a.s.) and Imam Husain (a.s.) and declared: “Oh my Lord! These are my Ahle Bait (a.s.).”
- Musnad-e-Ahmad vol 1 pg 185
From the word ‘ourselves’ used in this blessed verse, one can conclude that Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) has been described as being with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) in his virtues. And given the consensus in the narrations that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is superior to all the prophets (a.s.), then even Imam Ali (a.s.) is superior to all the prophets (a.s.).
In Sahih Bukhari, there is a narration from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) wherein he (s.a.w.a.) states – I am the Chief of all men. (Sahih Bukhari vol 6 pg 223)
I am the chief of the children of Adam (a.s.).
- Sahih Muslim – The Book of Virtues, The Chapter of the superiority of our Prophet (s.a.w.a.) over all creations
- Sahih Tirmizi vol 2 pg 895
Accordingly, it follows that from a spiritual aspect Imam Ali (a.s.) – the ‘Self’ of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) – is also the chief of all men and the master of the children of Adam (a.s.).
Allamah Hilli (r.a.) mentions in the book ‘Sharh-e-Tajreed’: (The word) ‘Self’ in this blessed verse is pointing towards Imam Ali (a.s.) and it is not possible to say that the self of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Ali (a.s.) is the same. Thus there remains only one possibility which is that this verse implies an equal status between the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and Imam Ali (a.s.). And when there is no doubt that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) is superior to all men, then the same is true for Imam Ali (a.s.) also.
- Sharh-e-Tajreed pg 218
Fakhruddin Raazi while commenting on the verse of Mubahelah says: There is a man named Mahmood Ibn Hasan Hamasi in the city of ‘Rayy’ (modern day Tehran) who is a teacher of the Ithna Ashari Shias. He believes that Ali (a.s.) is superior to all the Prophets (a.s.), except the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).
Here he states that: A proof which testifies his claim is the saying of Allah: “and ourselves and yourselves” and “ourselves” here is not referring to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), because a person does not order himself to do an action. Rather “ourselves” here is for someone other than the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). And there is a consensus among scholars that “ourselves” is none other than Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.). Thus this blessed verse proves that the ‘self’ of Imam Ali (a.s.) is equal to the ‘self’ of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and not that the ‘self’ of Imam Ali (a.s.) is same as that of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). Rather the verse implies that the ‘self’ of Imam Ali (a.s.) is like the ‘self’ of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). It is appropriate to conclude that Imam Ali (a.s.) is equal to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from all the aspects of virtues and perfection. From this general (or universal) equality, prophethood is the only exception, since it is a consensus and has also come in narrations that after the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) there would be no other Prophet…”
- Tafseer-e-Kabir vol 8 pg 81 of Fakhr-e-Raazi
If someone concludes that the words “ourselves and yourselves” in the Quranic verse does not indicate any specific excellence for Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), then we draw attention towards another reliable and consecutively narrated report (tawatur) of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) famous as Hadith-e-Nur wherein he (s.a.w.a.) declared – Surely Ali is from me and I am from Ali.
As pointed out in this tradition, the word “ourselves” in the Quranic verse shows true equality in virtues between the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and his self – Ali Ibn Abi Talib (a.s.).
Based on these proofs from the Holy Quran and views of Muslim scholars, Ali (a.s.) is the ‘Self’ of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and like him (s.a.w.a.) is superior to all creation. In the absence of such virtues and excellence for others in the Muslim nation, Ali (a.s.) was best placed to succeed Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). This is apart from clear proofs like the announcement of Ghadeer, the reports of Saqalain, Manzelah, Nur, Madinah al-Ilm that establish Ali’s (a.s.) successorship.